The Detroit Lions are setting their sights on a much better 2020 season to bounce back from what was a disaster in 2019, and the only way they will do that is if they start to get young players to come into their own on the field.
Fortunately for the team, the conditions figure to be ripe for some of their youngest players to take major steps forward this coming season. Multiple players who are both stars and unknown can become the next to take their games to the top level.
Who will be doing it? Here’s a look at some of the names to remember.
Kerryon Johnson, Running Back
Johnson is heading into a vital season for the Lions in which he needs to stay healthy and look like the early round draft pick that he was. Last season looked like it was going to be a coming out party for Johnson, but they he got hurt again. In 2020, if Johnson can stay healthy, the touches will be there that will get him over the top in terms of a dominating player on the ground. He should find excellent support from D’Andre Swift and company in the backfield as well as a rebuilt offensive line. Johnson is heading into a big season, and there’s no reason he can’t excel and become one of the best runners in football moving forward given his speed and agility.
T.J. Hockenson, Tight End
Hockenson was robbed of his rookie season thanks to a season ending injury late, but he flashed at times in 2019 including the season opener where he scored a touchdown and torched Arizona for 131 yards, the most ever by a rookie tight end in NFL history. It looked like he was set to contend for top rookie honors after that, but Hockenson’s production quickly stalled thanks to an early injury scare and the rookie wall. With that beyond him and another year in the offense, the sky figures to be the limit in a pass-heavy offense which targeted Hockenson more last year when healthy than any other player at his position. That bodes well for his chances moving forward and at having the kind of season that could put him on multiple maps across the league.
Trey Flowers, Edge
Arguably, Flowers had a solid season in 2019 going for 7 sacks and 51 total tackles. Those numbers pretty closely resembled some of his best seasons with the Patriots. Flowers, though, is capable of so much more, especially within the revamped Detroit defense that should offer more help on the back end and more depth at linebacker than in the past. If Flowers is able to go well over 10 sacks this season it would be huge for the Detroit defense and a pass rush most still consider needy this offseason. Flowers could be the one variable that is able to change that case completely by himself with a great year. The bet is he will find a way to get it and become a menacing force up front. Most forget Flowers is just 26, so his best football could certainly start coming in spades soon.
Will Harris, Safety
Most would believe that Harris has a partner on the back end in Tracy Walker that is primed for a huge season, but the better argument is Walker broke out in 2019 and is now beginning to establish himself as one of the most solid safeties in the league. Detroit’s trade of Quandre Diggs was due in part to Walker being ready to step up. After that trade, Harris had to play just as big a role as a rookie and was showing signs of learning his way before the season ended. Harris has talent and might be right there with Walker in terms of a player ready to take off. Most might not realize it, but he’s poised for a huge season.
Jeff Okudah, Cornerback
Typically, it’s odd to feature a rookie on this list, but Okudah is no usual rookie. Cornerbacks don’t typically get selected within the top 5 of the NFL Draft anymore, but Okudah is no usual cornerback. He’s a player capable of being a lockdown force at the next level. The NFL is an intimidating league, but Okudah looks more ready for the mental and physical grind than a lot of people his age. He’s mature, confident and should waste little time making an impression on the team and the league. Desmond Trufant might also have a great season, but Okudah could be poised to quickly become a revelation in Detroit for his solid play right off the bat.
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